Sunday, November 29, 2015

Water is Most Refreshing When You’ve Been Parched.

The oppressiveness of life can drape heavy, like a blanket over our backs. Not a blanket of comfort and warmth, but one weighing us down, like twenty pounds of despair covering our shoulders. Maybe you’ve been here and cried as if you were being flipped inside out...on the floor, heaving in a panic, fear ripping holes in your chest and tears flowing on and off for weeks, unexpected and uncontrollable. The nauseation from loss, desires unmet, disappointment that squeezes out your breath or grief settling in to find a home in our bodies leave us pressed down. These are the dark nights of the soul and they come unleashing havoc on us like a swarm of bees, attacking. Sometimes we sit in it and wonder if a light will ever dawn.

Little do we know, here lies the prelude to songs of gratitude. Pain is often the set up for a thankful heart. Though we know in our minds it’s not true, we wonder if that acute ache will trap us for the rest of our lives. Severe anguish blinds us to hope and deafens us to the whispers of God.

But oftentimes without warning, a small spoonful of grace is served up when we least expect it, right in the middle of the torment. Little did we know that the lack we have been mourning, the pain we have been wanting to escape, or the distress that has left us with such sorrow have prepped us to treasure the smallest gifts as though they were the size of the moon. A little water goes a long way for the thirsty.

Most often, though we wish it were not so, songs birth most beautifully from a place of suffering. We simply do not know the value of walking until we can’t walk. We don’t know the value of friendship until we have gone without it. We don’t know the value of a peaceful day until we have been wrecked with anxiety. We don’t know the value of health until we have endured chronic pain. We don’t know the value of laughter until we have been lost in depression. Genuine gratitude and hardship are not mutually exclusive.

What is most glorious is how by this same recipe God works worship into our numb hearts. I am sure, like me, you have seen your sin leave its wake across the lives of those you most love. In a state of panic we break knowing we can’t fix it, we can’t undo it and we can’t erase it from our souls. This is when forgiveness takes it’s full effect. When I see my sin for what it is, I am more thunderstruck by His mercy. This mercy, that is new every morning, leads me inevitably to personal stanzas of praise to God. How can I have one without the other?

So sit in the pain, feel the weight of your sin and when He comes to you with healing and forgiveness, you will rejoice as if you had been rescued. Because you have. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Elisabeth Elliot, a life worth considering. sister was scrolling through her phone and made a comment that has left my thoughts full, “Elisabeth Elliot died today.” I knew she was near the end of life and battling alzheimer’s disease. In the back of my mind I knew I would hear this news soon. Ironically, I got a push notification the other day on my phone from a news app that informed me that Jeb Bush, a presidential candidate, considers himself “an introvert.” I guess that would be considered critical to announce? But sadly I saw nothing on a newsfeed to inform me of the death of a hero. Kim and I sat as she read me a summary of Elisabeth’s life. All I could think about was how fixed she was on this one cause: “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” From a young age it was modeled out by her missionary parents, “We will live and breathe for the cause of Christ.” The fire was lit inside of her and continued to grow in power and heat all through her life. The telltale sign that informs me of this, though not ever knowing this woman personally, is that her life was that of sacrifice, risk, and purpose. Like a sower scattering seed in an open field, her life was driven to make things grow all over the planet. Elisabeth Elliott took seriously the Great Commission and without hesitation, churned with this motive up until her dying day.

I began reading an article in Psychology Today about reinventing ourselves in the later years of our lives. The author spoke of the need to evaluate and reshape ourselves as our lives move forward in time. I am quite sure Elisabeth had the same primary goal, but after being battered by loss and a catalyst for change to a primitive people, her life took a different shape as the years went on. What hit me from this article was something rather simple. If we don’t have a purpose to our lives, higher than our own comfort and ease, we will atrophy. One comment stood out to me from Art Markman a professor of psychology from University of Texas at Austin, “If you don’t have a long-term goals you run the risk of doing lots of little things every day--cleaning the house, sending emails, catching up on TV--without ever making a contribution to your future.” This becomes a feeling of purposelessness. Translated for those of us who are believers, if we don’t contribute to the cause we are called to be a part of, we will shrink our lives down to nothing important. Our time will waste away on Youtube, Facebook and online shopping. Hours and hours that add up to days and days

Our goals should not just be about what the article titles “our future,” as that can be as self-serving as our present laziness and distraction. For those of us who believe that Jesus was really the Son of God, we must see ourselves as agents of bringing heaven to earth. Elisabeth Elliot wasn’t perfect with this call. Nor is anyone. Each morning we must call out to the Spirit of God to develop a beatitudes lifestyle, to make us people who love our enemies and our family, to give us freedom from self-absorption, to wrap us in the humility of Christ, to want the same things that Jesus wanted and to hate the same things He hated. This surrender is essential to growth. It is sadly true that we can know the Lord’s salvation, understand the problem of sin, get that the cross of Christ is our means to salvation, and live never truly embracing it as it was meant to be. We could die and go to heaven and yet never have lived the life on earth we were called to live. most of us check our email more than we read Scripture, too many times we watch youtube more than we pray. An atrophied life.

This is why stories like Elisabeth Elliot’s should be told. We need something to aim for.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

I Didn't Go to Church. Sometimes it's Exactly What We Need.

The poverty of my soul was palpable this morning. There was a warring tension between going to church, being around others, singing the songs I love and hearing the Word delivered to me, OR being silent and still with the Lord at home...I was completely stuck, and feeling really low.

“Be still and know that I am God.” Whispered through my thoughts.

So I stayed home.

I sat on my back porch where no one could see me, bundled in blankets with books of liturgy, scripture and reflections by Thomas Merton sitting on the floor around my feet. Birds filled the air with a peaceful sound and all the world around me had served my soul with His closeness. I didn’t know how much I needed Him.

Just Him.

Crowded schedules and a racing mind keep times like this so far out of reach. But the poverty of my soul had finally, completely arrested me; I felt I had no choice.

Charles Spurgeon led me here,

“There are several instructive features in our Savior’s prayer in his hour of trial. It was a lonely prayer. He withdrew even from His three favored disciples. Believer, be much in solitary prayer, especially in times of trial. Family prayer, social prayer, prayer in the Church, will not suffice, these are very precious, but the best beaten spice will smoke in your censer in your private devotions, where no ear hears but God’s.”

So I sat for a long time.

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8)...
His nearness comes by means of confession oftentimes. His nearness comes when I have exhausted all my own resources, when all my personal wisdom has failed again and again, when I no longer have a plan to fix what I have broken, when my sin has left me stuck and the ripple effect has made panic rise up in me. Caught in the storms of chaos with no answer and nothing left to try...He leads me to the prayer of desperation and confession. This moment won’t come during weeks on end of non-stop living. It can’t. Today I am still. I have stopped talking. I have stopped analyzing. I have stopped rushing to figure out how to fix things...I have stopped striving.

Instead I have sat still. I have been surrounded by the birds. I have felt the calm come through my body. I have found a clear mind and deep breaths. I know it has come because He has come near to my crushed spirit.

As I look at His creation all around me and the expanse of the sky above me, I become aware of how much He has and how full He is. A storehouse. A well the doesn’t run dry. All of everything in the whole universe is His and even so, He is bigger than all of that. My soul needs something that big. My dry spirit needs water that won’t stop rushing in. My sin-drenched appetite needs His forgiveness to keeps pouring over me like the tide...

I read about some storms in Scripture...about Jonah and the storm resulting from his resistance of God, about the storm raging in Psalm 107 leaving men afraid and taxed of strength, about the storm in Mark where the disciples were terrified while Jesus was asleep below...My own self feels like a ship at sea tossed and flipped on its side. How do I keep asking for mercy? How can I keep calling out to be rescued when I cause my own waves? How is it even fair to keep expecting Him to deliver and free me and cleanse me? But this is His nature. This is His way. He does not stop accepting, forgiving, loving, freeing, strengthening, giving, comforting, calming...He does not stop.  

One Celtic reading I read today quoted a woman by the name of Mary Lyon:

“Nine-tenths of our suffering is caused by others not thinking so much of us as we think they ought.”

Here is where the pride burrows deep. Like a thorn in my side, craving to find the fullness of God who is bigger than the universe from the smallness of people who are buffeted by their own chaotic seas.

But in this stillness, in this set aside quiet...

The love that exceeds the whole universe finds its way into my poverty.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they will be filled..."

A hymn was sent to me this morning...the lyrics are pure nourishment. There are no songs today that match the beauty and power of the old hymns. My grandmother always used to say so...

God of grace and God of glory,
On Thy people pour Thy power.
Crown Thine ancient church’s story,
Bring her bud to glorious flower.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
For the facing of this hour,
For the facing of this hour.

Lo! the hosts of evil ’round us,
Scorn Thy Christ, assail His ways.
From the fears that long have bound us,
Free our hearts to faith and praise.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
For the living of these days,
For the living of these days.

Cure Thy children’s warring madness,
Bend our pride to Thy control.
Shame our wanton selfish gladness,
Rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
Lest we miss Thy kingdom’s goal,
Lest we miss Thy kingdom’s goal.
Set our feet on lofty places,
Gird our lives that they may be,
Armored with all Christ-like graces,
In the fight to set men free.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
That we fail not man nor Thee,
That we fail not man nor Thee.

Save us from weak resignation,
To the evils we deplore.
Let the search for Thy salvation,
Be our glory evermore.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
Serving Thee Whom we adore,
Serving Thee Whom we adore.

Monday, December 22, 2014

"It's dark in here...we need a Light."

I know a few people who secretly started to listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving day. Some, like myself, consider this a serious breach of an unwritten code. A crime. An offensive decision. But for those who follow the rules, after that glorious meal, there is nothing as satisfying as Christmas music floating though the house when washing the mile-high stack of cranberry-stained dishes. As Amy Grant’s Immanuel belts out, my sister starts in sync at the top of her lungs...Wonderful, Counselor, Lord of Life, Lord of all, He is the Prince of Peace, Mighty God, Holy One....Im-m-a-an-u-el, Immanuel. The sounds of these songs are magical; we can’t quite wear them out. For one month we press repeat on the songs that tell the story of the holidays: family gathering around the table, presents under the tree, chestnuts roasting, snow falling, mistletoe, turkey and a baby born in Bethlehem...the memories bubble up in my mind with each song.

Then there’s the other part of Christmas--bags in hand, bustling about in shopping centers and malls, sitting for hours online scouring for sales...hopeful for just the right find for someone, and crafting a long list of the particular things we all want. The economy breathes it all in with one big, Grinch-like smile. For those who wander around in the scramble, it takes an intentional awareness to notice these same songs whispering through the speakers in Dick’s Sporting Goods, Eddie Bauer, or Marshall’s. Hark the herald angels sing glory to the new born King...Silent night, holy night, Son of God, loves pure light...The hopes and fears of all the years, are met in Thee tonight...

Ironic. Hovering over us as we race and rush are the songs that beckon us to worship. At no other time EVER do shoppers hear lyrics so boldly proclaiming Jesus as God, as Savior, as Messiah. The story of Christmas gets hijacked by the sales and sparkle of the season. Jesus is just another magical element, much like our stockings...hung by the chimney with care.

Yesterday I pulled out of Dilworth Coffee with Elgin’s fluffed Cafe O’ Le in hand and hit the highway from Matthews, NC to Media, PA. 8.3 hours. My eyes took in every beautiful landscape along the drive through Virginia and along the farmlands of Pennsylvania. At points I saw some flurries, caught up with an old friend on the phone and snacked on some sweet holiday treats from my students. I never mind this road trip. My mind is still, undistracted and attentive. The Christmas break travel is especially invigorating with the cold, gray skies, the warm drinks, and the Christmas music that inspires me to sing like Julie Andrews at the top of my lungs!

And as I sing,
I listen...

Some lyrics bring tears to my eyes. Pure poetry, rich in theology and a reminder of what we revere.

At times I imagine the malls, highways, and food stores going into lockdown mode, everyone’s feet glued in place, stuck. All conversation stopped, all registers closed, all lights dimmed, total silence...except the songs of Christmas...

...No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;

He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found...

...Hail, the heaven-born Prince of peace!
Hail the Son of righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die,

Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn King...

...Silent night! Holy night!
Son of God love's pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,

Jesus, Lord at thy birth...

...Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long

Beneath the heavenly strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong

And man at war with man hears not
The tidings which they bring
O hush the noise, ye men of strife
And hear the angels sing

O ye, beneath life's crushing load
Whose forms are bending low
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow

Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing
O rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing

For lo, the days are hastening on
By prophets seen of old
When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold

When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing...

...O Holy Night
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
'Til He appeared and the soul felt it's worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morning
Fall on your knees, O hear the angels’ voices
O night, divine...

A Savior has been born. He has come to take away the curse of sin and the despair in meaningless living. Every twisted act of violence, every selfish obsession with money, every misplaced affection, every demanding and controlling intention, every racist response, every prideful root, all idolatry of children, stuff, power, physical beauty, all envy, strife, anger, passivity, laziness, workaholic lifestyle, dismissal of the Sabbath, covetousness and the love of self rather than love of God. God came as an infant. He came poor, helpless and hated. He came to rescue us and resurrect us from our lives of hopelessness and self-absorption. There is a sad truth in all of this, even for those who know Him. The malls are much like our Christian homes. We love the holidays but forget about the Christ. We move fast and eat a whole bunch, we buy gifts and blast the music while we cook and laugh and sing. Our table is set and our gifts perfectly wrapped...all to celebrate a King we never mention.

Christmas comes around each year, and each year we push Him to the side. We feel good to feed the homeless but are terrible at prayer. It’s awkward and serious to put Him in the middle of it all.The results are profound, and though subtle, powerful: greed, high expectations on family members, an increase in the numbing effects of materialism, disappointment when we don’t get what we want, debt, tension, apathy, selfishness, distraction, busyness...

He comes to make His blessings known, far as the curse is found...

O ye, beneath life's crushing load
Whose forms are bending low
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow

It’s no different today than in the days of old. A Savior had come to a world that would reject Him. And we still do. We choose darkness over light. We choose stuff over Him. But He is the gift, and just as God said to Abraham in Genesis, “I AM your great reward,” Jesus tells us to stop and consider Him. He is the reward. He is the gift we long for. He is the only balm for our grasping souls. He makes all crooked things straight. He makes streams flow in the desert. He finds the one lost sheep. He raises the dead. He heals, listens, cares, redeems, He fills us with bottomless joy ...A baby born with a mission to find us in our toiling, give us direction in our waywardness and peace in our angst. Above all, Isaiah prophesied about Christmas this way:

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them. Is 9:2

Stop as if your feet are glued to the ground. Force it. Wait and listen. Be still and pray by yourself, even if just in the shower. Better yet, lead your children to the manger where true life is found. He will fill them up more than an American girl doll, an Xbox, or the coolest trendy clothes.

It’s dark out, help them find Him.

Help them hear the message of Christmas...

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices...

Thursday, September 18, 2014

3646 Central Avenue. Our new home. But not our final home...


Christ Central Church turned 10 years old this past year. There was a big throw down party to celebrate and dance and eat. We did it Christ Central style. The building we meet in has always fit the demographic of people who come. The ones in need of repair. The ones who have a list of things that just don’t work. The ones who can’t find the money to make any changes. The Neighborhood Theater is unique in character but lacks practicality. The mauve colored stalls in the bathroom lack luster and the toilets flush roughly 50% of the time. In order to see the words on the program some had to  use their convenient iphone flashlights; even the shortest of us had no space for our legs; we chose our seats with an attempt to avoid all beer-stains; and periodically each of us caught glimpses of various rodents scampering about in the dark corners. Some days we had no AC, some days no water, some days a flood. Our parking went away, our projector and screen were sold, we had no good place to teach our kids and every square inch was crumbling away or unstable. For 5 years our pastors and elders and other good men combed the city for a place to migrate. We just needed a place to go! But God held off. And in the waiting, He kept busy doing the work of humility in our church. The wandering was just the soul-construction we needed. Each Sunday we sat in the same chairs. We worked with what we had, and slowly accepted that this was His good place for us, for now. He brought new people. Our leadership grew in numbers and integrity with the commitment to keep us healthy and honest. Some were directed on to their next place to worship. Many of us “old timers” remained. Each week we came. Each week we heard the same message, ate at the same table, and waited for the next charge. This building, this move....was not our job. Truth be told, we didn’t even have the money to fix our own toilets, how would we find a new place to call home?

3646 Central Avenue. An old skating rink. An ugly building “with much potential.” This would become Christ Central’s new landing spot. The scent of this miracle blew through our church today as we had our first service. God has constructed for Himself a place to dwell. His Temple. “Don’t get the story of this building twisted. We did not give it to God; He gave it to us so that He could be with His people.”

A few commands from the pulpit: “don’t get this backwards.” “The building is not ours.” And another command: “We MUST festival before the Lord!” And that we did! In Christ Central style the long tables were set with baked beans, Asian salads, macaroni and cheese, broccoli salad, mashed potatoes, and fried chicken! We all sat wherever there was space; we mingled about and moved from one gathering of people to the next. Some wandered about the place still in shock, some stood outside for the quiet and crisp fall air. A family supper. That’s what it was. As I looked around it was clear, we all felt the same way. Grateful, humbled, excited, and hopeful. 3536 Central Avenue will be a beacon. Like the Temple in Solomon's day, the glory of God has come to express itself, to leave it’s mist and it’s mark.

With festival and loud jubilation, we will worship this mighty and overcoming God. Our party will keep going on and on. We have no reason to shut it down. We will still be singing and dancing when the skies are ripped open and God arrives to set up His new Temple once and for all time.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Easter-Type of Love

I read today that the Spirit essentially GIVES the best gift of the abundant love of the Father to us. What mind-blowing truth: this perfect love is IN us. Paul said it in Romans 5. It drew me in immediately. That enduring, limitless, ever-pursuing, engaging, intentional, completely pure love of God is poured into me by means of the Spirit? My heart is challenged to accept this as I feel the very real resistance inside of me, wanting to believe it, wanting to be internally settled because of it and yet terrified that it is only that "barely keeping my head above water" level of love. I often live instead only catching a quick glimpse of it, just almost grasping it yet not quite able to reach it, not even close at all. I want to fill up and float away on this reality so that no gap, no lack, no missing piece or pounding ache can settle in too quickly since this love takes up all the space inside of me and chases out any dark morsel of emptiness. A love that shuts down that ever-present haunting hum, "You will never have what others all around you have, those who have found true, ongoing, surreal, disney-like happiness." I limp along in line with the other misfits, staring at the beautiful and satisfied who laugh and sing their songs of glee in celebration of their arrival to the American Dream festivities.

But this love has been a different sort of seed planted in my heart. As mercy comes new every morning like rain, showering down, this seed has grown and this love from the Spirit has taken up residence stretching its vines all about and through my interior. This is the love we have been fitted to, like lock and key. Every other form or possibility of love will run dry and even become embittered if it is set as the first, top-tier love. Lesser loves can't hold the weight of our enormous need for supernatural, unfailing, character-changing and perfectly wise affection from God the Father. This is the love the Spirit plants and grows within us. This is the banner I raise high above my life story. "You have sought me and found me, you have rescued me and changed me, you have stayed and kept me, and you have named me and crowned me. You have found my misfit-self and transformed me." This is true love...bubbling up and over and out of me. This is a sacrificial and raise-you-from-the-dead level of love. You won't find that anywhere else.

And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. (Romans 5:5 NLT)

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

"It's ok, I like when things are broken..."

I got the estimate for the car.

100.000 miles of wear and tear on a Rav4 and much too much to spend on a teacher’s salary. These are the necessities of life and the reasons to keep a savings in tact. Anticipating a long, 10-hour drive from 77 to 81 to 76 to the familiar route100 means I want to have a car where my mechanic says, “All is well. Merry Christmas and safe travels.” The diagnosis was grim but life-saving: near-dead battery, bubble in one of my tires and brake pads in dire need of repair. And then there is the issue with the passenger’s door automatic lock. I have unfortunately gotten used to the fact that no longer do I have to shift my entire body all the way over, extending my arms out, straining my fingers to finally reach the lock on  the door opposite me. Today, I just push a convenient button and at the speed of light, every door unlocks.

So presently my lock sits stuck, silent. Nothing moves it into the unlocked position. So now I unlock it “old-school” style.

The estimate showed a high cost to fix my lock, something that in the end, works fine. My conclusion was that I would pull out some handy scotch tape, close up the panel and embrace a broken, automatic door lock. Let it be. Save money and be annoyed now and then.

One of my students was driving with me when I went into the full explanation of the lock issue. Though I am used to it, I assume it may be a pain for someone else. Her response was well worth the thing being broken. Truly.

“It’s ok; I like when things are broken actually. It’s nice when everything isn’t fixed.”

 She just sat there as if it weren’t profound. I glanced over at her and didn’t say a word, but my mind was immediately full; my heart was immediately set right.

Ashley comes from a wealthy home. She isn’t a brat, she isn’t self-absorbed, but she does live with most of her wants met. She has been born and raised in Charlotte, NC which is polished and clean and “perfect.” This is the banking capital where image is the forefront value. Cars, houses and clothes are the trappings and garland hanging around this city. Measurements for “who’s who” in the runnings-up for the American Dream are like a cancer that eat away at the meaning, joy and contentment of life. This is the world Ashley lives in. Beyond the toxic atmosphere that breathes down her neck, this young girl fights her own internal battle of perfectionism. The intensity level of her stress is unique. Headaches, stomachaches and late nights pining away for the possibility of closing the margin for “an even better grade” leave her at times lifeless. The pressure for everything to be as it should be is overwhelming. It’s like this for Ashley, but it’s like this for most kids today who genuinely care to be responsible. Some are driven by the fear of the future, the plague of competition over college acceptances...some are harassed by a ghostly slave-driver that births from their own imbalanced expectations.

Ashley is tangled in both.

Her words tell so much about what finally makes her feel freed from any measurement: broken, un-fixed things; a situation that isn’t perfect serves as a reminder that life goes on, and even well, when something is left undone. The more perfect the things are around her, the more oppressed she feels to be shiny too.When things around her are broken, the standards mist away...

I can appreciate this bondage. Those kindred friends I have who aren’t preoccupied with what they wear, what they drive, how perfectly their house is furnished or decorated...they admit when they are wrong and seem to be un-phased by my own, besetting trip-ups. They speak truth confidently while draping grace over my shoulders like a cloak. Their kids are not the center of the universe and their daily priority is not to present a perfect face to the free world...Friends who are not competitive, who speak of emptiness but seem to find their hope in heaven...people who listen well, enjoy creativity and who find mystery and joy in the differences of culture, style and giftedness. They don’t fix everything because they can’t afford to, or it just doesn’t seem to matter so much. These are the refreshing ones, who don't have one fixed template for what "successful" living is.

Things left undone can force new strength and deeper appreciation for anything at all. Ashley likes my broken lock because it takes the strain off, and reminds her to focus on the things that matter, not all the extra externals that weigh us down along the road to seeking security, love and forgiveness. It seems to me that if I spend all my time making everything perfect it is far more challenging to face the fact that I can’t get it all right all the time. I start to pretend, put on a face, lock up my failures, polish away all my stains; worst of all, I run in the opposite direction of a Savior who is here to dust me off and wash me clean. Truly clean, down to the lining of the core of my sin-scuffed self.

Ashley will find her greatest freedom in embracing her brokenness. It means not straining and striving for what is a tense tight-rope to walk. It means being “as she is,” and loved in spite of all the unkempt entanglements that criss-cross from her shoulders to her heels. It means her colors start to shine more like humility, patience, endurance, self-control and empathy. It means she starts to walk with dignity instead of pride and pomp; it means she leaves a dusting of authenticity wherever she goes.

It means she lives by a different measure altogether, that of repentance and hope, knowing that One greater than her is making all things new. That’s simply not her job.

He’ll fix her broken lock, and every other mixed up thing inside of her.